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Astronauts finish space station spacewalk

HOUSTON, April 9 (UPI) — U.S. astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson completed a 6 1/2-hour spacewalk Friday repressurizing the International Space Station’s primary airlock.


Two days after docking with the space station in low Earth orbit, the space shuttle Discovery astronauts also released a 1,700-pound ammonia coolant tank in Discovery’s cargo bay that will be moved to the space station and installed a rate gyro assembly to help determine the lab’s orientation in space, NASA said.

They also carried out several “get-ahead” tasks to save time for future spacewalkers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

This was the first of three spacewalks for the astronauts, who lifted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center with five other crew members Monday on a mission to resupply the space station.

Three shuttle flights remain as the space agency completes the international laboratory before retiring the shuttle orbiters this year after 134 launches.

The shuttle is scheduled to undock from the space station April 16 and land back at the Kennedy Space Center two days later.

‘Robosuit’ increases wearer’s strength

TOKYO, April 9 (UPI) — A power-assisted suit can reduce physical effort by 62 percent and reduce backaches and cramps, Japanese scientists say.

The metal-and-plastic “robosuit” developed at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology has eight electric motors that amplify the strength of a wearer’s arms and legs, robotics Professor Shigeki Toyama said.

The outfit has sensors that can detect movements and respond to commands through a voice-recognition system, he said.

The muscular activity needed to bend one’s knees can be cut in half and the strain of crouching can be removed almost entirely, the developers said.

“If the farmer bends over to grasp a radish, his back will be firmly supported,” Gohei Yamamoto, a student working on the team, said in a report in London’s Daily Mail.

“A brief vocal instruction will instantly straighten the rods along his legs, giving him the power he needs to pull the vegetable without effort,” Yamamoto said.

The suit, 15 years in the making, is to go into production by the end of this year, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.

It will initially retail for about $10,700, a price its makers say they hope to halve if the device is mass-produced.

The team plans a heavy-duty, 66-pound model for lifting big loads and pulling vegetables out of the ground and a 50-pound version for lighter tasks, such as picking grapes.

The group does not plan to sell the suits outside Japan.

Infant breathes xenon, avoids brain injury

BRISTOL, England, April 9 (UPI) — British doctors helped a newborn baby boy avoid serious brain injury from lack of oxygen by giving him xenon gas to breathe, a medical first, the doctors said.

Newborn Riley Joyce was given a 50-50 chance of permanent injury and disability when he was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital, a university hospital in Bristol, England, unable to breathe properly.

His parents, Dave and Sarah Joyce, agreed that Riley could become the first baby to inhale xenon gas, in an experimental treatment, in the hope he would make a full recovery, London’s Daily Mail reported.

Xenon is a colorless, odorless gas that is heavy and inert and is sometimes used as a general anesthetic, although it is expensive. It occurs in the earth’s atmosphere in trace amounts.

Neonatal Neuroscience Professor Marianne Thoresen of the University of Bristol and colleague Dr. James Tooley lowered Riley’s body temperature to 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit, then connected his breathing machine to a xenon delivery system for three hours.

Riley was kept cool for 72 hours, then slowly rewarmed. He started breathing without the machine on Day 5, the Mail said.

“After seven days, Riley was alert, able to look at his mother’s face, hold up his head and begin to take milk,” said Thoresen, who pioneered the technique with Dr. John Dingley from Swansea University in Wales.

Clinical trials had shown that lowering a baby’s body temperature by only a few degrees for 72 hours is a safe and beneficial treatment for lack of oxygen or blood supply at birth.

Male deer don’t lie about their prowess

LONDON, April 9 (UPI) — The calls or groans of male Eurasian fallow deer give rivals and possible mates an honest account of the emitting deer’s prowess, researchers said Friday.

A study, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal BMC Biology, suggests the acoustic qualities of a deer’s call change over time and reflect changes in status and age.

“As males aged, their dominance ranks changed and rank was a good predictor of mating success,” researcher Alan McElligott of the University of London’s Queen Mary college said.

“Their calls contained features that were honest signals, modified dynamically according to male quality, and showing a very robust example of ‘truth in advertising’ in animal communication,” he said.

He and Elodie Briefer, also from Queen Mary, along with Elisabetta Vannoni of Switzerland’s University of Zurich, studied fallow deer, native to most of Europe, during four consecutive breeding seasons.

They recorded male-to-male competition and matings between dawn and dusk every day during the annual mating season, they said. They also recorded the vocalizations of each male.

“In addition to fallow bucks’ groans being honest signals of age and competitiveness or rank, we’ve shown that a buck’s ‘vocal identity’ changes substantially from one year to the next, while genetic identity of course remains exactly the same,” McElligott said.

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